Actor one of two victims of fiery single-car crash; Universal 'heartbroken' over loss

Paul Walker, star of Universal Pictures’ “Fast and the Furious” movie franchise, died Saturday after the Porsche he was riding in struck a light pole in Santa Clarita, Calif., Variety has confirmed. He was 40.

“All of us at Universal are heartbroken,” the studio said in a statement issued Saturday night. “Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the ‘Fast and Furious’ films, and to countless fans.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Fast & Furious’ Co-Stars Stunned by Actor’s Death

Walker was the passenger in a car driven by a friend, financial advisor Roger Rodas, following an event for his charity Reach Out Worldwide. Walker has business connections to Rodas’ Always Evolving Performance Motors, which is located near the crash site.

Authorities said they responded to the crash at about 3:30 p.m. PT in the 28300 block of Rye Canyon Loop in the Valencia area of Santa Clarita, and found the car engulfed in flames. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities said that the speed of the red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT was a factor in the crash.

PHOTOS: Paul Walker’s Hollywood Career 

A friend, Antonio Holmes, told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal that several people had tried to rescue the victims. “We all ran around and jumped in cars and grabbed fire extinguishers and immediately went to the vehicle. … Employees, friends of the shop. We tried. We tried. We went through fire extinguishers,” he told the paper.

Walker was scheduled to star in “Brick Mansions” for Relativity. The studio released a statement late Saturday that read: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of Paul Walker. Paul was an incredibly talented artist, devoted philanthropist and friend.”

“Brick Mansions” producer EuropaCorp said in a statement, “All of us at EuropaCorp are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden loss of Paul Walker. We recently completed the filming of Brick Mansions with him and today, those who were lucky enough to work with him are heartbroken. He was a fantastic actor on this project as well as a wonderful team member.”

Walker appeared as LAPD detective and later FBI officer Brian O’Conner in all but one of the successful “Fast and the Furious” movies. His other credits include “Varsity Blues,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Running Scared” and “Takers.”

Walker was a highly sought-after leading man in action and indie dramas. Among his upcoming features awaiting release are Relativity Media’s “Brick Mansions” and “Vehicle 19.” “Hours,” a drama set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is due out Dec. 13 from Lionsgate’s Pantelion Films.

PHOTOS: Paul Walker’s Hollywood Career: A Timeline

A native of Glendale, Calif., Walker got his start as a youth in commercials and TV series ranging from “Charles in Charge” to “Who’s the Boss” to “The Young and the Restless.” He was a protege of famed talent agent Ed Limato, and began to make his mark in features in the late 1990s with roles in 1998’s “Pleasantville” and 1999’s “Varsity Blues” before breaking out with the first “Fast and the Furious” pic in 2001.

Most recently, Walker was in production on the seventh installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. The street racing franchise is Universal’s most valuable active pic franchise. Walker’s death will undoubtedly leave a significant void in the pic now in production and subsequent installments.

Among his survivors are a teenage daughter, Meadow.

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